My grandfather writes:
Dear Maia:In sadness I must report that poor Linda of late just got worse and worse.She would lie down but then could not get up. she whined in pain veryfrequently despite all the meds. she could no longer navigate the doggy-doorso I was carrying her down and up the stairs usually at 11PM, Midnight, and then1AM and 3 AM … but in between she could no longer control herself so she wasshitting on herself and her bed and it was a sad mess.Her two Vets : Dr Michele Fuller and Dr. Zoe Ramagnano had bothbeen suggesting that despite all we tried for Linda they could no longer restore her to health and shewas in decline. and ” it was time ” Near 17 years is a long time for a little doggy.Sadly , and with many tears and pains I took her in at 6PM last night to The Village Vetand had her put down. Dr. Fuller handled it and there was no pain for Linda… I’m starting to crynow as I think about it. I kept putting this off, but finally … She was so much part of my life,I shall miss her terribly. she kept developing new habits. Towards the end she’d come up tome and put her nose under my knee — asking to be petted. She never did that before.Decided to have her cremated by an outfit Dr. Fuller recommended: www.veryimportantpetmortuary.com … Tracy Victor. They are giving us a nice little chest with her ashes plusa plaque with her two front paw prints and words mentioning Cathy and you and myself. — andLinda’s name, of course. should have all this come early January.Dr. Fuller was so kind and gentle and did all this for no charge. She is the best Vet weever had, my opinion. She asked me to drop in from time to time and say hello. MaybeI can do this …Sorry for this sad message, but TIME has her ways , does she not ?Richard Merrill bought me a book PROOF OF HEAVEN in which a Doctor who it seems diedand then came back did mention that he saw Dogs in Heaven … Let’s hope … Maybe Lindawill put in a good word for me ?
Linda was named after this song that played on the radio when my late mother had just picked up the two month old shaggy black and white terrier mix from the shelter. We knew she was special from the beginning. She was one of two puppies in her litter to survive a major dog-killer: distemper. She would drink leftover coffee if left unattended and go crazy over cigarette bums she encountered on her twice-daily walks.
My mother taught me the value of life. When I saw the movie A Walk to Remember and cynically commented on why the protagonist, dying of leukemia needed so many hats, my mother chastised me. It wasn’t about whether or not she was going to die: it was all about enjoying those hats when you were still alive.
Linda was also inspired by my fascination with the Wizard of Oz and how I liked the Glinda the good witch. So combining Glinda and Linda’s new namesake, Linda joined our family.
Being a terrier with the natural instinct to dig holes, Linda found things to bury in my collection of stuffed animals and barbies.
Out of all the stuffed animals that she enjoyed to play with, she took a special liking to that of stuffed possum. This one she kept intact. It became her security blanket. Whenever she experienced separation anxiety or wondered where we were, she would drag it around the house and wherever she was, her possum friend would follow her. Though it missed an eye from 20+ years of wear and tear (it was given to me when I was merely a newborn) it was her “teddy bear” so to speak.
Linda was only 11 when my mother passed on and months of confusion followed. She would sit by “the pain chair” or the leather reclining chair my mother would spend a great amount of her last days in and occasionally let out a mournful howl. Other times she would stare into space. My grandfather remarked hopefully that this could signify my mother was still with us in spirit and being an animal and sensitive to things that humans cannot always perceive, Linda was just “hanging out” with my mother’s spirit. My family is very creative and spiritual, so we welcomed this possibility.
Months turned into several and several turned into years and in her old age, our family dog developed strange new habits and behaviors which my grandfather would record in his emails with amusement and mild annoyance. She always was used to eating leftovers and my grandfather on his healthy diet of steamed vegetables, started giving the dog half of his dinner to her. Linda adapted to this and when he “forgot” to feed her half of his dinner (even though she had her gourmet hypoallergenic dinner still not 100% eaten) she would stare in dismay and even start growling. If Linda were a human, my mother liked to say, she would be a high-strung skinny 60-something chronic smoker with a penchant for bananas, walks to Starbucks, and constant companionship. But she was loved not just by our family but by the entire neighborhood.
She scored an “extras” scene in the late 90′s Madonna film “The Next Best Thing” After two hours of 20-something outtakes, and six months of eager waiting, our 15+ dollar trip to the multiplex resulted in my mother being horrified half-way through the film when the silver screen was dominated for 2 milliseconds by her behind. And an innocent unaware black and white dog trailing gingerly ahead. I think, if I recall correctly, my mother said something like, “Did they have to make my ass look that big?!”
Linda became a regular at Silverlake Wine where women would just crouch down and kiss her on her fluffy forehead after immediately recognizing her. Through walking Linda, my grandfather got to know the neighbors as did our downstairs neighbors. Through Linda, we became acquainted with beloved dogs passed, Bucky, Jake, all now greeting her in an infinite green landscape in how we like to imagine Doggy Heaven. Maybe my mother is waiting up there for her, asking her, “What took you so long?” and clucking her tongue at how much my grandfather pampered her and loved her. But she was loved. And we were loved in return.
I wish I had one more walk with her. Or just another morning of greeting her in the morning and getting her excited over something so simple: a can of wild salmon.
In Linda’s memory and in my mother’s memory, I beg each of you, this holiday season to open your heart to bringing home a mixed-breed dog from your animal shelter, or fostering, volunteering, donating, and just spreading the word that your run-of-the-mill shaggy terrier mix can make one extraordinary heartbreaking pet. She will fill your life with joy and love. A dog’s life, no matter how long or short is a blessing. And we were blessed.
My flatmate insightfully said that one death brings up all previous losses. In grief and in death, we celebrate life. In the Kaddish, there is not one word or direct mention of death: it is only about life.
To doubly honor Linda, I ask you all to celebrate life and hold those most dear to your hearts and remember those you may have lost.